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The Ultimate One-Way Ticket

Associated Press

Feb, 21, 2006 EST


Scotty will be blasted into space - not beamed up - and Gordo is returning
for his third flight.

The planned launch sometime in March of a rocket carrying the ashes of
actor James Doohan, who played chief engineer Montgomery Scott on Star
Trek, and Mercury program astronaut Gordon Cooper will give a fitting
send-off to two men who helped popularize human space exploration.

The craft also will hold the ashes of 185 others, including a telephone
technician, a nurse and a college student.

Their families paid $995 to $5,300 for the flight, being conducted by one
of a handful of growing businesses hoping to give a space experience to
the common folk.

"It broadens the market, which is important to us because our whole
business plan is about getting more people access to space," said Harvin
Moore of Space Services Inc. of Houston, which is sponsoring the ashes
flight. "Space needs to be affordable for all in some way."

Along with these services, space tourism businesses hope to send customers
into suborbital space at a cost of $25,000 to $250,000 a person, far less
than the $20 million businessman Gregory Olsen paid Russia last fall for a
ride to the International Space Station. Richard Branson's company, Virgin
Galactic, already has 100 people who have paid $200,000 apiece for
flights, which the company has said it hopes to begin in 2008.

Kathie Mayo knew her 19-year-old daughter would have loved the idea of
having her ashes sent into space. Rachael Mayo died in 2003 from
complications of Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"She would have said 'It's about time, Mom, rather than keeping my ashes
around the house,'" said Kathie Mayo of Winona, Minn.

Another company, ZeroG Aerospace of Seattle, hopes to launch a rocket next
month with mementoes from by people who paid as little as $49.95.

Colorado-based Beyond-Earth Enterprises plans to launch a rocket on a
brief flight in October with hair samples or fingernail clippings sent by
people who paid $34.95 for the "DNA kit" package. The company will also
transport science experiments - no animals allowed - for $2,500.

So far, the response to Beyond-Earth's services has been in the low
hundreds, said CEO Joe Latrell.

"We figured our market is actually Grandma and Grandpa," Latrell said. "I
don't know about you, but I don't have $200,000 to give Richard Branson to
go and fly in space. If I did have $200,000, the wife would definitely
want the second home before I get any say in going to space."

Space Services' planned launch of ashes on an unspecified date next month
from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California will be the fifth "memorial
spaceflight" for the privately held company and its previous incarnation,
Celestis Inc.

It conducted its first "space funeral flight" in 1997 with the ashes of
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and 23 other people from all walks of
life.

The ashes launched next month will be a secondary payload on a privately
built Falcon 1 rocket launching an Air Force satellite. A module
containing capsules of ashes will orbit for years before falling into the
atmosphere, Moore said.

Doohan and Cooper's widows said the decision to send up their husbands'
ashes was no different from those made by the families of the less famous.

"He always wanted to go up in space," said Wende Doohan.

Cooper, who died in 2004, piloted the Faith 7 spacecraft in 1963 and was
command pilot of the Gemini 5 mission in 1965. His widow, Suzan Cooper,
said she and her daughters thought "Daddy would do it again if he could,
so why not?"

Rachael Mayo adored Star Trek and the U.S. space program and wanted to be
the first woman on Mars. "Fly Me to the Moon" was one of her favorite
songs.

"This is the ultimate flight for her," her mother said.



 
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